All posts by Diane Hillmann

Check Your Bookmarks!

As of today, the link to Step-by-Step instruction on the Registry front page has been updated (and not a moment too soon). The new link still goes to the Registry Wiki, but the link itself is different, so those of you eager users who have bookmarked the old instructions might want to take a look at the new ones and update those bookmarks. The old instructions are still there, and, at the moment, not necessarily wrong, but they show the old logo, are pretty sparse in places, and haven’t been updated in a while so lack a few important functional bits.

The instructions are a work in progress–still being rewritten, expanded, and primped. We plan to continue building them up, and in addition are working on some training screencasts (with the valuable help of Tom Johnson)–and we’ll link those to the instructions as we complete them. We’ll try to continue to pop up and let you know when new parts are completed (you can see some empty stubs where we’ll be working along). As always we’re happy to hear if you have suggestions, complaints, etc., and votes for where we should be working next will be welcome (though not necessarily something we’re guaranteed to pay attention to).

We’re still working on planning for some major changes in the fairly near future, at which time the documentation will again be updated (we hope on a more ambitious schedule). As we all know, the work of a documentarian never ends … (can I have some cheese with that w(h)ine?)

Announcing the New Open Metadata Registry

As of this week, the familiar NSDL Regisry has a new name–the Open Metadata Registry–and a new logo. The name change reflects the fact that we’re no longer receiving funding from the National Science Foundation on behalf of the National Science Digital Library (NSDL), but also recognizes that the Registry has become one of the leaders in providing open, stable tools for those building infrastructure for the Semantic Web.

As part of this change, we’re joining our colleagues at JES & Co. as a project under their umbrella, as well as bringing current users and partners together in an Open Metadata Registry Consortium to build a sustainable plan for moving the Open Metadata Registry forward. Please watch for additional announcements and an expansion of the new look for our pages. If you’d like more detail on the Consortium, please contact Diane Hillmann at metadata dot maven at gmail dot com.

July 20, 2010

Multiple languages and RDA

We’ve been thinking for some time about how to implement multi-lingual (and multi-script) vocabularies in the Registry. Some Registry users have been experimenting with language and script capability for some time (see Daniel Lovins’ Sandbox Hebrew GMD’s). But it was really when we started working with the RDA vocabularies that we got serious about multi-linguality.

At DC-2008 in Berlin, we started talking to the librarians at the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek about adding German language versions of RDA vocabularies into the Registry. I knew how eager the German libraries were to participate more actively in the RDA development, and had been talking to German librarians for some time about their frustrations with the notion that they had to wait until “later” to become involved. Christine Frodl and Veronika Leibrecht have been our primary contacts at the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek on this work, and they’ve been a real pleasure to work with.

We decided collectively to start with some of the value vocabularies, in particular Content Type, Media Type and Carrier Type. We enabled Veronika to become a maintainer on those vocabularies, and she worked within her library and associated German-speaking libraries to translate and develop labels and definitions in German for the existing terms. As she describes the challenge:

“Because RDA was not developed simultaneously in various languages (that would be an even more daunting task!), we are looking for ways to adapt German to English language/cataloguing concepts and must get agreement on the terms in our community. The search for terminology to translate RDA will therefore be an ongoing process in the short term for us. … Now I am looking forward to seeing French and Spanish come along 😉 and would be happy to share a few resources I found which could help people in their search for terminology.”

Those of you who know German (or have an interest in multilingual vocabularies in general, might want to take a look at some of the work done already:

Content Type Vocabulary (you can see that for now, all concepts display in English)

Detail for concept of “computer program”: http://metadataregistry.org/concept/show/id/517.html (the German translation for the label appears in the list of properties of the concept)

Veronika points out that the process behind this effort is a complex one, but solidly based on existing relationships in the German-speaking world:

“[B]ecause of the federal system in Germany, the DNB works very closely with all library consortia in the country and Austria and decisions about cataloguing rules and data formats are reached through consensus with them. The reason for this it that the consortia include and represent libraries which existed long before the German state as such (or the DNB, for that matter) and therefore have traditionally and independently held the written cultural heritage of their individual counties, duchies, kingdoms etc.”

We have had some additional interest by other language communities in this effort, and Jon has added some detail on our wiki to describe how we plan to improve the software to make both building and maintenance of other language versions simpler, and easier to configure at the output end. Do note that this isn’t implemented yet, but is instead a blueprint for moving ahead in this critical area.

Updated Step-by-Step Instructions

Those of you who have actually discovered the Registry and tried to add stuff to it have (I hope) already realized that we had Step-by-step Instructions for doing so. They were old, and we’d added new things (mostly Jon added new things—I just rant, nag and test), so I finally re-did the instructions. They can be found here: http://wiki.metadataregistry.org/Step-By-Step_Instruction.
Looking at the old instructions was, for me at least, a reminder that we have made progress, much as it sometimes seems like we’re moving at a glacial pace. The interface has changed, we’ve added versioning and history, as well as schema registration (read Jon’s posts for more details). There’s still lots more to come, and believe me we have seemingly endless list of what’s still missing. But writing documentation, even basic stuff like these instructions, is a humbling experience. Trying to do things more linearly than I usually do reminds me yet again where the gaps are.

One of the issues, which I’m not sure I’ve papered over very well in the instructions, is something I call the “eating our own dog food” problem. Those of you who know me personally have heard me use that phrase before—it’s a favorite. It basically means that, if you’re just preaching about how to do something, and not doing it, you’re not eating your own dog food. Not a good thing, and likely as not it will affect your credibility in ways that aren’t very comfortable, because SOMEBODY will call you on it.

Where we managed to step in it (the natural product created from said dog food, that is), was when we extended the registry from value vocabularies only to value vocabularies and schemas. Then, our model of concepts and properties of concepts started getting a little funky. When you’re registering schemas, you’ve got an aggregation of schema properties, and then, um, properties of properties? Uh oh. You can see the problem, I think—it’s about identifying and defining terms (among other things), and isn’t that what we’re supposed to be doing?

So, for the moment, until we’ve figured out how to hold our noses and eat that unappetizing dog food, we’re making a distinction in the schema instructions between “schema properties” and “specific properties.” Not elegant, but until inspiration strikes, somewhat helpful, I hope.

If any of you have occasion to use the instructions or stumble upon them and want to provide some helpful (or not) comments, just send them along to me: metadata.maven@gmail.com.

Who are we doing this for, anyway?

Building any kind of functioning service requires an initial assemblage of assumptions. Who’s the user? What do they expect in the way of service and interaction? Where do we start to engage them in the enterprise? I’ve always been a strong believer in diverse work teams, with a variety of backgrounds and experience brought to the table. Of course the messy part of diversity comes when there’s a need to come to some consensus about priorities and approaches.

Continue reading Who are we doing this for, anyway?